Youth Ministry and the Pub
Oh, how times have changed..... "Youth Ministry and the Cafe" doesn't quite have the same ring to it, but the same ideas apply.
When I started in my first paid position, in wonderful Bury, Lancashire, the congregation were in the middle of their pantomime rehearsals. That in itself was a great place for me to start, going to rehearsals and hanging out, chatting to people and so on. After each rehearsal, most of the cast and crew would decamp. To the pub. Older (but underage) teenagers included. Yes, I tagged along. Yes, we had a blast. Yes, it was the late 1990s. No, I would not do it now. But hang out in a cafe, park or wherever? Absolutely, but even that has changed as I've got older....
To me there is no better way to build relationships with students than over a bite to eat and/or a brew (English English - tea or coffee, not the American meaning of "brew"). Back in Bury, on a Thursday evening, I had a group of students over for pizza every week before youth club. In Toton, Nottingham, we gathered at the only cafe in town every Wednesday afternoon.
Over 25 years in ministry, my role and the way I relate to students has changed. In Bury I was in my early 20s. I was young enough and "cool" enough to be part of the crowd. In Toton I was the senior leader with a Time For God volunteer (usually in their early 20s) on the team and I was approaching 40. The transition from being one of the crowd to "proper" adult was challenging, but ultimately gave me a different perspective on ministry and my role and relationship with students.
But one thing stays the same, as I nudge ever nearer 50, and the grey hairs far outnumber the rest. Relationship is key. Programs attract, but relationships retain. Whether it's in the pub, on a sports field, in a cafe, or some other setting, it's all about relationship. Seeing and valuing the people you are with, being present to them. After all, a conversation between Jesus and a woman at a well, a conversation of but a few minutes, where He saw her and affirmed her existence and worth, changed her world.